Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ecclesiastes: Meaning and Purpose

The second week of the study of Ecclesiastes in the Disciple Bible Study is different from the first. I feel much more comfortable with it. This week, we are asked to read it through the viewpoint of hope and love—through sure knowledge of the grace of God and faith in him through Jesus.

The assignment says this:

As we discovered last week, many people see only futility, even despair, in Ecclesiastes. Now, look for the good things in life. Look for the joys, modest though they may be.

The human condition statement in the lesson describes us accurately, as they do in all the lessons:

Only five more days till the weekend. Only eleven more months till vacation. Only twenty more years till retirement. We’re preparing. One of these days, we’ll be able to enjoy life.

The writer of Ecclesiastes began to see life as meaningless, because it will just end in death. He hit an existential void of sorts, letting himself get weighed down by Satan’s messages of cynicism, depression, heaviness of heart. He tried all kinds of things to see if he could find meaning and purpose to satisfy his heart—huge projects, wealth, possessions, women, pleasure, work. But it all ends in death, no matter what.

He realized that happiness is found only in knowing and loving God. Some of his important conclusions are these:

God has put eternity—a sense of it—in people’s hearts, so they are capable of knowing God. People can comprehend that even though human endeavors all eventually end, what God does lasts forever.

There is too much evil and oppression in the world. Even so, there is strength in our connection with others; “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

It is important to stand in awe of God, to seek wisdom, to avoid love of wealth. Joy comes from following him.

Whatever you do, he says, do it with all your heart.

Share with other people; “cast your bread upon the waters.” It will come back to you, multiplied.

Remember God all your life.

Just because God often connects things for me, I looked up today’s (Dec. 2) My Utmost for His Highest entry by Oswald Chambers, and sure enough, it ties in. Ecclesiastes is timely:

Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that hits you is the pointlessness of the things you have to do. The next thought that strikes you is that other people seem to be living perfectly consistent lives. Such lives may leave you with the idea that God is unnecessary— that through your own human effort and devotion you can attain God’s standard for your life. In a fallen world this can never be done. I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.

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